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Living With Climate Change: Biden to Detroit Auto Show: First $900 million to fill gaps in EV charging network is on its way

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President Biden hit the Detroit Auto Show Wednesday, where the classic Corvette owner slid behind a few wheels, and more importantly for an industry shifting ever closer to electric vehicle adoption, announced the first allotment of federal dollars for expanding the EV charger network.

Biden as expected extolled what his administration believes is a pro-EV agenda, mostly through already announced spending in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, but also through tax incentives and grants.

Biden on Wednesday announced the approval of the first $900 million in infrastructure funding to build EV chargers across 53,000 miles of the national highway system and across 35 states.

The president highlighted EV tax credits and rebates within the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act, an effort that some auto experts point out is too limiting for the makes and models most readily available now, but could still incentivize more manufacturing and consumer uptake down the road.

Related: Yellen says Biden’s climate law helps put Putin in his place

For now, the incentives are largely linked to U.S. production for batteries, domestic assembly and more, while the industry still greatly relies on offshore materials and parts. General Motors
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and others, including Toyota and Honda, have recently announced U.S.-based battery partnerships.

Biden also stressed that the CHIPS and Science Act he signed this summer will help the auto industry. It is intended to ease supply chain challenges in promoting domestic production of semiconductor chips
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and other technology necessary as cars, trucks and SUVs become more like computers and much less mechanical.

More: Used EVs: How to navigate the tight market for pre-owned electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt

Biden geared remarks toward union workers, CEOs and local leaders at the auto show, who will all play a role as the administration positions “the United States to lead the electric vehicle future — creating more jobs and making more in America all while fighting climate change,” he said.

In all, congress and Biden, a self-described “car guy,” have pledged tens of billions of in loans, manufacturing and consumer tax credits and grants to speed the transition away from internal combustion vehicles to EVs. Policy watchers have said EVs will only truly be “clean” vehicles when more alternative sources such as solar, wind, nuclear and hydrogen provide power to the electric grid that charge EVs.

In August 2021, Biden set a goal that EVs or plug-in hybrid gas and electric vehicles will represent 50% of all U.S. new vehicle sales by 2030. Detroit’s three automakers backed that nonbinding goal. California in August approved a law that requires all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids. 

Most consumers still holding on to gasoline-powered
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cars and access to quick fill-ups at roadside pumps say that charging range anxiety, as well as the relative higher upfront cost of EVs keeps them from making the jump, though they provide cheaper ownership over the long haul.

Read: Americans want EV tax incentives. But are they ready to lose gas cars forever?

Biden’s transportation team previously announced plans that call for new or upgraded charging stations every 50 miles throughout the web of Interstates and other larger highways with roadside services. Each station would need to have at least four fast-charger ports, which enable drivers to fully recharge their vehicles in about an hour. Many early adopters of EVs typically charge overnight at home or at work if their office provides chargers.

Still, the industry is clearly headed toward EVs; how fast remains the question.

Since Biden took office, companies including Toyota
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,
Honda
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,
Ford Motor Co.
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-0.44%
,
GM and Panasonic
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have announced investments of nearly $85 billion to make EVs, batteries and EV chargers across America, including in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and Kansas.

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